Apple, Samsung spur demand for light, proximity sensors

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Light and proximity sensors in mobile handsets and tablets are set for double-digit growth within a five-year period, spurred by demand from Samsung and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), predicts IHS.

Samsung and Apple are the top buyers of light sensors, accounting for more than 50 percent of light sensor revenue last year. Samsung pulled away from Apple after posting 90 percent growth in sensor purchases between 2011 and 2012, compared to Apple's 54 percent growth rate during the same period, according to IHS stats.

Revenue for sensors is forecast to reach $782 million this year, up 41 percent from $555 million last year. Overall, the compound annual growth rate for the sensors will be 19 percent from 2012 to 2017, reaching $1.3 billion in revenue by then.

IHS explains that there are three types of light and proximity sensors: "ambient light sensors that measure the intensity of the surrounding light enveloping a cellphone or tablet to adjust screen brightness and save battery power; RGB sensors that measure a room's color temperature via the red, green and blue wavelengths of light to help correct white balance in the device display; and proximity sensors that disable a handset's touch screen when it is held close to the head, in order to avoid unwanted input, and also to turn off the light in the display to save battery power."

Driving growth in sensor revenue is the shift in use from ALS to RGB in mid- to high-end smartphones, the deployment of proximity sensors with gesture capabilities and the price premium associated with changes in usage.

"The continued growth of the smartphone and tablet markets serve as the foundation of a bright future for light sensors. Market leaders in these areas are driving the growth, with Apple pioneering their adoption and Samsung later taking the lead in their usage," commented Marwan Boustany, senior analyst for MEMS and sensors at IHS.

For more:
- see IHS' stats

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